I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
This is now my favorite collection of short stories.
End of the review.
No really, I have looking forward to this collection the moment I heard of its existence. It was actually supposed to come out last year but, I don’t exactly know why, it was pushed back to this year.
Anyway, I am not a big reader of collection of short stories or anthologies in general, I like to read short fiction in SFF magazines or in Tor.com for example but I always forgot that it can be read elsewhere. However, I previously read two short stories by Liu, Reborn and his famous The Paper Menagerie (winner of the Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy awards), and I really enjoyed the both of them. I remember that the first time I read The Paper Menagerie, I almost cried, which is something extremely rare for me.
Well, I cried four times while reading this collection.
What I loved the most about it is that even if all the different short stories were completely different, they were forming a very coherent work (if that makes sense). For example, in pretty much every of those stories, Ken Liu explores the themes of family and belonging to a cultural group and it never becomes boring.
I was really fascinated by all the ideas that he managed to put into those stories and how well crafted and paced they were.
Ken Liu made me remember why I loved genre fiction so much. It’s not really that much because of the fantastical setting or because of spaceships, robots, dragons or whatever but mainly because it allows me to see how could humans evolve and adapt themselves to new situations and problems.
If you read The Paper Menagerie for instance, you’ll see that the few magical elements are a very subtle way for Liu to reinforce the point he’s trying to make. All his short stories are like this, very subtle, intelligent, beautifully written and thought-out and even if I didn’t love all of them, I did not dislike one in particular. I could still very easily rate my least favorite one a 3.5* (which is for me still a very good rating).
I have two favorite stories in this collection and when I said that, I mean that when I finished them I couldn’t stop crying. The first one is The Paper Menagerie that I previously read two years ago. The first time I read it, it made me want to cry and it made me think a lot but since I think that it was one of the first (if not the first) short stories I read in my life and that I wasn’t used to this format, it didn’t strike me as much as the second time around. I can now completely understand why it won so many awards, it is just excellent.
My other favorite is now on my Top 3 of best short stories I’ve read so far in my life and it is The Literomancer. When I finished it I was lying in my bed, sobbing.
It was amazing and I know for sure that I am going to reread it.
As I said before, all the stories are very different from one another, some are magical realism, others a set very far in the future or in alternate reality, one of the stories is a mystery etc… You can really read two or three short stories back to back without fearing that they may blend into one another.
So yeah, I would 100% recommend this one to everyone, even to people who don’t read or usually enjoy short fiction. Also if you liked The Grace of Kings, Liu’s debut novel, I am pretty sure that you are going to enjoy his shorter works!